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NBooth

Unfinished Books

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NBooth   

One of my interests, going way back (and, understand, I mean "interest" in the loosest sense), has been the idea of unfinished books. I mean, books that were in-progress when the author died, or else were set aside for one reason or another. I don't know why, but they fascinate me. And yet--I find I have a precious little knowledge of what, exactly, has been left behind. So here's another list-thread. What authors left behind disordered (or semi-ordered) manuscripts, and have they since been made available? Here's what I can come up with:

Available:

1. Virgil, The Aenead

2. Dickens, The Mystery of Edwin Drood

3. Stevenson, Weir of Hermiston

4. Nabokov, The Original of Laura

5. Tolkien, The Book of Lost Tales, The Children of Hurin, etc.

5. Wallace, The Pale King

Unavailable:

1. Herbert, Dune conclusion (no, his son's necromancy doesn't count)

Any others? I don't just mean works published after the author's death, though the difference between an "unfinished" book and one that is simply published posthumously might wind up being a distinction with no difference.

Edited by NBooth

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One of my interests, going way back (and, understand, I mean "interest" in the loosest sense), has been the idea of unfinished books. I mean, books that were in-progress when the author died, or else were set aside for one reason or another. I don't know why, but they fascinate me. And yet--I find I have a precious little knowledge of what, exactly, has been left behind. So here's another list-thread. What authors left behind disordered (or semi-ordered) manuscripts, and have they since been made available? Here's what I can come up with:

Available:

1. Virgil, The Aenead

2. Dickens, The Mystery of Edwin Drood

3. Stevenson, Weir of Hermiston

4. Nabokov, The Original of Laura

5. Tolkien, The Book of Lost Tales, The Children of Hurin, etc.

5. Wallace, The Pale King

Unavailable:

1. Herbert, Dune conclusion (no, his son's necromancy doesn't count)

Any others? I don't just mean works published after the author's death, though the difference between an "unfinished" book and one that is simply published posthumously might wind up being a distinction with no difference.

Thomas Wolfe might be the king here. He published two novels during his lifetime (Look Homeward, Angel and Of Time and the River), and left a massive pile of manuscripts upon his death. Those manuscripts were eventually sorted, semi-organized, and published under three different titles: The Web and the Rock, You Can't Go Home Again, and The Hills Beyond. The first two are more or less complete works, although they required a herculean editing effort to whittle down and organize the pile of papers. The latter truly is an unfinished novel. Still ... thank God for editors.

I suppose it might be premature to add George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire to the list.

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Andy, a lifetime ago I considered pursuing advanced degrees and Thomas Wolfe was going to be my cheat, since there is so little written about him compared to his contemporaries. It still could be done.

I hope the cupboard is completely empty when I finish the Bolano canon. Fairly staggering how much has been released since his death.

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I suppose it might be premature to add George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire to the list.

Ha! But Oh Please No.

As far as unfinished books go...

Pascal, Pensées

Melville, Billy Budd

Both of those are still really good though.

Also:

Larry Brown, A Miracle of Catfish

Kafka, The Trial and The Castle (Kafka had several unfinished novels at the time of his death, I think)

Fitzgerald, The Love of the Last Tycoon

Twain, The Mysterious Stranger (several versions of this exist, I read one called No. 44, The Mysterious Stranger, it was very strange and very dark)

Philip K. Dick, The Owl in Daylight

Stephen King, The Plant (he's not dead, but this was an online serial that he just abandoned and seems to have no intention of returning to)

Edited by Gavin Breeden

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Raymond Chandler's Poodle Springs, which was finished by Robert Parker (I almost typed "Ray Parker Jr." That's a book I'd read.)

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NBooth   

These are all great. I'm adding several to my wish list (sigh. The ever-growing wish list).

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I do want to read The Pale King. It might be finished.

I found it to be an enormously compassionate, enriching, satisfying, maddening, dizzying, anal-retentive book, brilliantly and sloppily written. Which is to say that it was a David Foster Wallace novel. None of the other Wallace novels make any attempt to tie up the thousand or so loose ends anyway. So I found the "unfinished" aspect of the novel to be mostly a moot point.

I loved it, by the way. It really is about the IRS tax code and those who deeply care about it. Wallace makes these people interesting, likable, damnable, and entirely three-dimensional (and includes the usual digressions, endnotes that comment about other endnotes, etc.). It was a labyrinthine blast.

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Most of Kafka's stuff was unfinished.

There's C. S. Lewis' THE DARK TOWER and AFTER TEN YEARS.

Raymond Chandler's Poodle Springs, which was finished by Robert Parker (I almost typed "Ray Parker Jr." That's a book I'd read.)

You can get *just* the Chander material for POODLE SPRINGS if you get RAYMOND CHANDLER SPEAKING.

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Anders   

Twain, The Mysterious Stranger (several versions of this exist, I read one called No. 44, The Mysterious Stranger, it was very strange and very dark)

My oh my, it's a wonderful under-read work, but yes, very dark. I love it.

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Gina   

For mystery fans, there's Thrones, Dominations by Dorothy L. Sayers. It was eventually completed by Jill Paton Walsh and published in 1998.

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Anodos   

Elizabeth Gaskell's Wives and Daughters. I don't know if any of you've read Gaskell - she may not have crossed the Pond as successfully as some other Victorian writers - but her work lies somewhere between Austen, Dickens and the Brontes; I'm not a huge fan myself, but my sister loves her. Anyway, she died with just one or two chapters of her largest novel left to come...

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Gina   

I think she has quite a few fans on this side of the pond nowadays. The miniseries adaptation of North and South helped tremendously with that. (In my circles, there are those who all but revere Richard Armitage's John Thornton as a god. biggrin.png I'm not all that stuck on him myself, but to each her own.)

Edited by Gina

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NBooth   

Publisher's Weekly has a list of 9 unfinished works by great writers. Their list (one or two of which have been mentioned here already):

Bouvard and Pecuchet by Gustave Flaubert

The 120 Days of Sodom by Marquis de Sade

Stephen Hero by James Joyce

The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights by John Steinbeck

The Buccaneers by Edith Wharton

The Temple at Thatch by Evelyn Waugh (unpublished; destroyed)

Billy Budd by Herman Melville

The Watsons by Jane Austen

The Journal of Julius Rodman by Edgar Allen Poe

Edited by NBooth

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NBooth   

Alison Flood at The Guardian on "'New' old books: the irresistible charm of authors' lost works":

Publish as much as possible of a beloved author’s work, because the fans will lap it up, or exercise a fierce quality control? It’s a question that I was pondering only this week, on reading the forgotten Dr Seuss stories in Horton and the Kwuggerbug and More Lost Stories to my children. We are regular readers of Horton Hears a Who, and The Grinch Who Stole Christmas – and were looking forward to it. And … it just wasn’t as good. The Grinch wasn’t the right colour, he wasn’t very funny, and there were only two pages of him. Horton wasn’t as charming.

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Rushmore   

My favorite example is probably The Brothers Karamazov. Of course it's great, but I just didn't find it satisfying. There are too many passages obviously meant to set up a much bigger story than the one we have.

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